Last weekend, I had the opportunity to run in a women-only event. It was something I've always wanted to do...running 13.1 miles alongside more than 1,400 other women seemed like a fabulous way to spend a Saturday morning. And it was. I ran (perhaps jogged or cantered would be a more appropriate verb). More than a thousand other women ran. And while we all moved at different paces, with different styles, we all moved together. Without words, we supported one another in our collective march forward.
Running gives you an abundance of time to think. During the first few miles, I began to wonder about the physical experiences and challenges each of my fellow runners had faced. How many were mothers? How many had given birth, or nourished a child with their very body? How many had dealt with infertility? How many had battled cancer, and won? How many had bravely held a partner's hand as he or she battled their own disease? As I ran, I dwelt on and celebrated the strength of women. Ladies, we are quite amazing. Our bodies are capable, our minds are strong, and our emotional capacity is staggering. So I ran...and thought...and celebrated women. The strength of women. The strength of me.
You see, this race fell at a unique time. August 31, 2010 was, without question, the worst day of my life. On that day, I learned that my first child was most definitely not viable. I was cursed at by a doctor. I was given medicine to rid my body of my first little one. On that day, I lost all confidence in my body. All trust in my physical self was destroyed. And on September 1, 2012, practically two years to the day later, I felt control returning. Running a half-marathon is not easy for me. I'm not a natural runner. Every step is difficult, and no matter how much I have trained, the last few miles are always surprisingly challenging. But I finished. I asked my body to do something, and it did. And at around mile 9 when I knew that I was actually going to finish this thing, I realized that this race was so very important for me. It wasn't about my time, or even about fitness. For me, this race was about beginning the process of learning to love my body. Learning to appreciate that, despite the fact that it failed several times, it also provided a safe home for B&F for 34 weeks. It provided food for them for over 9 months. And today, it continues to care for them each day, picking up, comforting, embracing and playing.
As I was surrounded by women, I could not help but think about the most important female in my life. Although she is not a woman yet, sweet Frances, who babbles and wobbles and blows bubbles all day, will eventually grow from a toddler to a girl to a young woman. And as the woman she will have known the longest, I feel a deep responsibility to shape her in a positive way. Women are hard on each other. It starts young, with mean girls and cliques, and continues into adulthood with mommy gossip and comparisons. And women are even harder on ourselves. We set unrealistic expectations for ourselves--comparing our bodies to those we see on television and our parties to the perfect images we find on pinterest--making our best feel never quite good enough.
I want to set an example for my daughter. I want her to be like the women I ran with. I want her to move with others, not against them. To run behind them, not just stand on the sidelines. I want her to know that strong is beautiful. You can control strong--you can be strong in body, in character, in conviction. You can control strong...and strong is beautiful.